June 12, is a date widely reckoned with in Nigeria’s struggle for democracy, in which late Chief M.K.O Abiola ran for the presidency in 1993 and was generally regarded as the presumed winner of the election which was annulled by the former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Across the nation today, at least the six states in the southwest have declared June 12 a public holiday and also holding ceremonies in his honor.
According to reports, the annulment sparked a firestorm that would culminate in Babangida “stepping aside” for the inauguration of an Interim National Government, ING, headed by Ernest Shonekan, former chairman of the UAC.
The 1993 election was declared Nigeria’s freest and fairest presidential election by national and international observers, with Abiola winning in his northern opponent’s home state.
Abiola was born on August 14, 1937. He was a philanthropist and described a pillar of sports in Africa due to his support for the development of sporting activities.
Below are 7 facts you need to know:
- Abiola, who was of the SDP, scored 58.36% of the 14 million votes cast in the election, beating his rival, Bashir Tofa, of the National Republican Party, polled 5,952,087 votes, representing 41.64%.
- Strangely, the 1993 elections had no person of Fulani/Hausa extraction picked as the presidential or vice-presidential candidate.
Alhaji Bashir Tofa who contested against Abiola is a Kanuri from Kano. Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, a Kanuri from Borno state, was Abiola running mate. However, after the annulment, the Hausa/Fulani bore the brunt.
- Only three states each returned more than 1 million votes, all southern: Lagos, Rivers (now Rivers and Bayelsa) and Ondo.
- In 1994, Abiola declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island, an area mainly dominated by Lagos Indigenes, after he returned from a trip to solicit the support of the international community for his mandate.
- Abiola died on July 7, 1998, the day he was due to be released from incarceration under suspicious circumstances shortly after the death of General Abacha.
The official autopsy stated that Abiola died of natural causes but Abacha’s chief security officer, Al-Mustapha, alleged he was beaten to death.
- Following Abiola’s death, Justice Bassey Ikpeme, who gave the controversial order to stop the election, died in 1997. Clement Akpamgbo, the attorney general and minister of justice, who was involved in the legal tussles, died in 2006.
- June 12, 2018, will not be marked as a public holiday following the President Buhari’s declaration as Nigeria’s new Democracy Day.